Beignets de Fleurs d'Acacia Acacia Flower Fritters
Just now, early to mid-May in South West France, as trees, plants and flowers continue the relay race from Spring into Summer, some trees at the edge of fields and woods turn conspicuously white as they become swathed in bunches of pendulous creamy-white flowers, rather like white wisteria blossom.
Like elderflowers that are also abundant at this time of year, you can make fritters from these delicious and plentiful sweet honey-scented flowers. [Although NB: only the flowers are edible, please do not try eating the leaves or twigs of this tree!].
The French name for this seasonal delicacy is ‘Beignets de Fleurs d’Acacia’ – Acacia flower fritters – except they’re not really acacia flowers, they’re actually the blossom from the Robinier tree (Robinia Pseudoacacia) or False Acacia, also known as the Black Locust tree in its native North America.
The season of perfect blossom for this recipe is very short – hardly two weeks – but that is perhaps what makes these beignets such a special and evocative treat, reminding many people in France of childhood and family recipes handed down from grandmother.
Stay at Château Plombis in early May and you’ll find a plentiful supply around the grounds of the delicious honey-scented blossom for making the fritters back in the large and well-equipped château kitchen.
There are many different recipes available on the internet for Beignets de Fleurs d’Acacia, or Acacia Flower Fritters. Some are quite simple using just flour, a pinch of salt and sparkling water or pale beer to make a delicate tempura batter, and others more elaborate involving the flowers soaked in liqueurs and sugar, and coated in heavy batters made with milk and eggs. Whichever type of batter you prefer :
- Make sure to select young, fresh blossom and, if necessary, pick off any older dried-up flowers from the sprig before use.
- Allow 4 to 6 sprigs of blossom per person.
- Shake the flowers gently to discard any insects and dirt – resist the temptation to wash or rinse the blossom which will make the fritters soggy.
- Dip the blossom very gently into the batter while holding onto the stem, and let the excess batter drip away.
- Fry the flowers in oil at around I80°C, turning once, until golden brown.
- Drain the beignets on kitchen paper and sprinkle with icing sugar.
The following short video (in french, from the television cooking programme Les Carnets de Julie, with Julie Andrieu) shows how simple and quick to make the beignets are. This more traditional French recipe uses an egg separated – the yolk added straight into the mix of flour and melted butter, with the white whipped up separately then folded in to lighten the batter.
Ingredients for 6 people :
- 100g acacia flower sprigs
- 1 egg
- 125g flour
- A pinch of salt
- A pinch of baking powder
- A soup spoon of melted butter
- Small glass of water
- 300ml sunflower oil for frying
- icing sugar for dusting over the beignets
Alternatively, try this vegan recipe for a light beer batter from veganonboard.com :
Ingredients for 2 people
- 60 g plain flour
- Half teaspoon baking powder (optional)
- 120ml beer
- 10 acacia flowers freshly picked
- 1 tbsp sugar
- Half a lemon
- Vegetable oil for frying
Shake and inspect your acacia flowers to remove any dirt or little insects.
Make the batter by combining flour (baking powder if using) and beer. Whisk throughly until smooth, you should have a runny, slightly thick batter.
Holding the stalk dip the flowers in the batter and let any excess run off.
Heat up a large frying pan, with enough oil in it to cover the base. You can test the oil is hot enough by dripping a bit of batter in and it will fizz and start to brown when it’s ready.
Fry the fritters on a medium/high heat, until the underside is golden brown, turn them over and repeat. Add more oil if you need to cook another batch.
Best eaten very soon after cooking. Sprinkle with sugar and a drizzle of lemon.
For some dreamy pictures of family blossom-gathering – and yet another beignet recipe – visit the beautiful blog ‘Manger’ of Mimi Thorisson who writes about food and life from the Médoc region just north of Bordeaux.. mimithorisson.com
Allez vite – if you want to enjoy Acacia flower fritters this year, you just about have time for some hedgerow indulgence… Bon appétit!